ODPEM Government of Jamaica
Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management
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Disasters Do Happen
Learn More About Landslides


 Facts About Landslides

The driving force behind all landslides is gravity. A landslide will occur when the gravitational pull increases when weight is added to the rock mass, for example, building on it or when the rock becomes saturated with water. The strength of a rock mass can be reduced by weathering, earthquakes, etc.

Landslides occur for a variety of reasons. They often occur as a result of natural phenomena but human activity can also be a factor:

  1. Vibrations from earthquakes can trigger a landslide.
  1. Waterlogging due to heavy rains can saturate the top layers of unstable soil and cause them to slide downhill.
  1. Human activity such as deforestation, vegetation removal, construction of roads, and construction of buildings on steep slopes may also lead to landslippage.
Landslides may move very slowly from a few centimetres per year to a sudden, total collapse or avalanche.

Landslides may travel just a few metres to many kilometers in the event of mudflows.

Landslides can be deadly. They destroy houses, cars, water mains, gas pips … anything in their path.

Landslides and mudflows can strike without warning, trapping or burying people.

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Tell-Tale Signs of an Impending Landslide

  1. Doors or windows stick or jam for the first time.
  1. New cracks appear in plaster, tile, brick, or foundations.
  1. Outside walls, walks, or stairs begin pulling away from the building.
  1. Slowly developing, widening cracks appear on the ground or on paved areas such as streets and driveways.
  1. Underground utility lines break.
  1. Bulging ground appears at the base of a slope.
  1. Ground water seeps to the surface in new locations.
  1. Fences, retaining walls, utility poles, or trees tilt or move.
  1. You hear a faint, rumbling sound that increases in volume in one specific direction and may begin shifting in that direction under your feet.


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